Ecolinguistic expeditions: Discovering Anyuak in Minnesota

The first step of my discovery--what do you see in your town?
The first step of my discovery–what do you see in your town?

In light of (yesterday’s) UNESCO Mother Language Day, I want to write in my Mother Language about a new language that I discovered this month.  (My readers should understand that when I say “discover,” I mean this in the same way as Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, namely, that I discovered something for myself. These people functioned fully as a community before any Western “discovery.”) Driving down the road in my own suburb of the Twin Cities, Minnesota, I saw the word “Anyuak” on a sign. What did this word even mean?

Read about my discovery

Entering dangerous territory: Ecolinguism off the beaten path

How do you learn about their story?
How do you learn about their story?

The salesperson just spoke to those people in English, I realized.

“Do you speak English?” I asked the dark-haired young man across the aisle from me. His face showed sun, wrinkles, and fatigue, making it hard to guess his age—somewhere between 25 and 45.

“No,” he shook his head and smiled as he pointed to the young woman sitting next to him. I had noticed her enormous, beautiful brown eyes, which, though tired, never closed during this long train ride.

“What language do you speak with them?” I continued, indicating the older man and younger women he was traveling with.

“Kurdish,” he answered.

I had him: “Bitdhaki al-arabi?” “Do you speak Arabic?”

His face lit up, “Yes, I speak Arabic.”

“Where are you from?”

“Syria.”

“Are you fleeing the war?”

“Yes.”

How do we learn others’ stories?

Week 19 of Loving Somali: Barasho wanaagsan! Nice to meet you!

I have always found it nice to meet Somalis.
I have always found it nice to meet Somalis.

This weekend I took a trip to a conference Arizona, and even though I wasn’t planning on practicing my Somali much, I ended up doing more than usual. I look forward these days to spending time in airports, looking for East African adventures.

Continue reading “Week 19 of Loving Somali: Barasho wanaagsan! Nice to meet you!”